Life In Colour

From the beginning of my career I have been working for those people who are living on the edge of society. When I started working with these people I surprisingly discovered that – life has taken all colours from them, but they are still cherishing every moment of their life with colour. Colour is their courage; colour creates enthusiasm for them to fight in order to live for another day. A person, who has nothing, has colour in life. In the beginning of my career, I took all black & white photographs of those who were colourful.  I found out poverty, sorrow and depression become vivid if I skip colour from their lives.

Sharing a few of my colour works and the people who always inspired me to become a colour photographer as well as to live a colourful life.

 

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Presently, I have been working in colour. A street child, a labourer on a road or even a homeless lady – all of them have colour. People who are fighting everyday to live life are heroes to me and these heroes represent colour. Their skin tone, their clothes, their living places all are colourful and powerful. They are deprived from all happiness in life but yet they are treating themselves with colour. While I discover the truth I learned to capture the mood of colour on them.

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By capturing these colour moments, I have learned that –a few hints of red, blue and yellow gives inspiration to our lives. People who are fighting for survival without anything in this world are healing their pains by indulging in colour.

Daily life in Kathmandu, Nepal. 2006

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Trafficked to Hell

“It’s been 12 years that I have been familiar to them; not only as a photographer but also as a brother. Whenever I go there, they run towards me calling out “Akash Bhai!” They bring me sweets, tea and speaks and talk a lot about their dreams. These girls are weak from lack of affection.  I once treated them as sisters so now they have granted me the honour of being their brother. No one knows the story of these faceless girls who are sold by their boyfriend, husband or parents. This is a one-way journey to a brothel; a place that is everything to them. By documenting them, I would like to spread their stories of pain which are only locked in each of their own madam’s castle. I recall one girl from those uncountable faces. Unsurprisingly – and despite her name – Asha, she isn’t very hopeful about her own future. ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get married nor have children,’ she says. ‘No one will marry me. If they did, they’d only keep me for two or three days, and then they’d sell me back.’ She is more streetwise than some of the other girls here, many of whom share a tragic dream that one day a knight in shining armour will arrive to carry them off; then they will marry him, have his babies and love him forever. I wish there would be a knight in shining armour arriving, to carry them out from this living hell! I do wish this.  I really wish it!” – GMB Akash

Sharing 10 souls and heart melting stories of 10 sisters who work as sex workers in different brothels in Bangladesh.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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I came here eight years ago because once I believed in love and married the man, for whom I became a prostitute. My husband of one year brought me here and sold me to this brothel for money. For the last 7 years I have had to work here to repay that 30 thousand taka,for which my husband sold me here.

I used to call our madam ‘Maa’. She is very generous to me and loves me like her daughter and for that I got the chance to repay the money and leave here. She allowed me to go back to my former life. Last year, with thousands of dreams, I went back to my village to my parents’ home, but nobody accepted me; neither my parents, nor my family members, nor the villagers. They didn’t allow me into my own home nor into the village because they think I am a dirty thing now, they said, “even we don’t eat that food when it falls down to the ground.” Some people were saying, “we never take back the dirt from our dustbin!” I cried the whole day and night till the next morning sitting beside my home, but no one cared and they were looking at me with hatred. But you know, when I saw my husband remarried and living in the same village, I came back to my ‘maa and my Hell.

At least this Hell allows me to live: to survive, to eat, to have space where I can sleep at night. Here I don’t need to see that cruel hatred for me in the eyes of my loved one_ Nilima

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I never wanted to be a mother in my life. My grandma was a sex worker; my mother is a sex worker, so this is not an exception for me. This is the oldest profession of our family; this is a chain that is ongoing. I have wanted to break this chain all of my life by not becoming a mother. But you know what? It’s very hard to stop the cycle of nature! I saw all of my mother’s pain being a sex worker. I saw how she felt standing in the same alley with me searching for customers. I know how it feels sharing the same customer who would sleep with your daughter the next day. I saw her attempting suicide in our room; fortunately, she survived.

I never wanted to be a mother but when I realized that I was pregnant, my mind changed tremendously; I didn’t want to kill my child. Everyone told me to get an abortion but I could not do it. Our madam pressured me for an abortion but I was protecting my baby with all the energy I had. Madam called the Babu, who used to come to me the most and who had once promised me that he would marry me! She told him that this might be his child and that I could blackmail him anytime! Babu beat me ruthlessly and tried to force me (to abort from his beating OR to have an abortion) but I convinced him to stop by embracing his feet and begging him for the life of my child. I signed a contract and assured him that I will never want anyone’s name for my child.

Becoming a mother is not an easy task in these brothels. Lots of women have died because of improper treatment. I had to battle a lot every day with pregnancy sickness and at the same time, I had to attend to my target customers. Some people are very ruthless and ill minded; they like pregnant women for their own indulgence and entertainment. I prayed to God for a baby boy during the whole period of my pregnancy but it’s a girl again in our family. God didn’t listen to me. Everyone is telling me this will happen again. But I am determined to get her out from this Hell. After all of this, I am not deterred from my goal; I will break this woeful chain. If a mother wants a good life for her child, nothing can stop her_ shopna

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Everyone says we are bad women because we do this work; because we are sex workers. Yes, you people are right. I have never seen someone doing prostitution as a hobby in our community in my life. No one choses prostitution as a hobby. But I have seen a lot of people who have wives and family come to me for fun to indulge themselves. I was born here and started my job at the age of eight. My mother tried a lot to send me somewhere safe. She cried day and night to send me somewhere else away from this brothel. But our madam didn’t permit it because I was in such demand for a lot of clients from the beginning because of my age and youthfulness. It’s very difficult to work in front of your mother but here luckily, every woman learns the trick to kill your soul and become a dead body.

I wait hours for my clients and during these hours I have nowhere to sit. I need to stand for hours and do bodily movements and use vulgar slang in order to get a client. I look so skinny so last month my madam started giving me some tablets that make me look fat and sexy. Men choose young and healthy workers because they complain that old workers are depressing. Getting a client is also like winning a battle because I have to compete with other workers and reach my target: ‘8 clients per night’. But when I get a client it is a mixed feeling as if I have won the battle but lost at the same time. I make my living and buy my food by selling my body and dignity.

Because I have to stand the whole time, for hours my leg hurts badly when I go to sleep. We can’t take an extra minute for eating, bathing or even using the toilet. If you are late for an extra minute you will get some slaps for a bonus. We can only get some time for sitting when we put our makeup on. It feels exhausting after finishing my target every night. I get such a small portion of food that even after finishing my full meal, I feel hungry all night. I never have seen a family in my life. I wish someone would marry me so that I could have a family. – Maya

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I can recall the first incident of sexual harassment in my life. My mother and I were used to learning the Quran from our Moulovi every evening after finishing all our work. That evening my mother fell asleep because of her sickness so I had to sit alone with him to learn my Arabic lesson. Suddenly I was feeling uneasy. I felt that he was touching my right hand in a bad way. Although I was only an eight-year-old girl I could understand the bad vibes of his touching. I was shaking in fear and started feeling like something was stuck in my throat. I held my tears and ran to our washroom and started washing my hand with soap like a mad girl. I washed my hand for the next two hours nonstop crying relentlessly until my mother made me understand that this will never happen again.

I came here because I am a misfortunate woman; if it was not my bad luck then how can I lose both of my parents in a rail station? There was one porter who found me and he helped me to search for my parents the whole day and then waited til dusk. But I found no one; I never found them again just like I never find my luck. I lived for the next few days with the porter family who found me but his wife never liked me. She started fighting with him about me every single day. The last evening in that home she handed me over to her brother and he brought me here. It all happened like the worst possible dream I was having and it was happening in my life.

The first day, I did not allow my client to open my dress. He got so angry and tried so hard that he tore apart all my clothes but he could not manage me. After that incident my madam beats me miserably and for the next three days she forced me to sleep naked and locked me without food in a room. On day four I got my food and a new client but I didn’t get my clothes back for several days. After that day I accepted my fate. I accepted men in my room and in my life. But I could not accept men in my soul. Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m being raped every night several times. It feels I can no longer live this life for one more day and be raped by a stranger in exchange for money and a living.

Every single day I am passing in this dark hell only with the help of the cheapest drugs provided by our madam. Now I don’t wash myself anymore because no one is here to tell me this will never happen again. I don’t cry because no one will tell me to stop crying and hold me to her chest tightly. Now I am learning to die every day_ Ovagi (unlucky)

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It’s been a long time I want to go to a very green field. I have never been in any green field. But I really want to go. I have a disease, I cannot breathe behind a closed door. I also cry while I laugh, I can’t control. It’s causing a lot of trouble to our mother. Our mother is our madam. I assured her I will be okay very soon, I will only laugh, will never cry. How I came to this brothel, I have no idea; I was too small to remember anything. But my only problem is, it’s very difficult to breathe here. Also I have no memory of any person; I do not see any face when I close my eyes, I feel all alone. Girls used to say they have no one too. But I tell myself, I must have someone, somewhere, may be a mother, a father or a lost family. I never had anyone to remember. So I try hard to remember a face, just any face, and there comes no one. My friend, Prinyanka usually wipes off my tears very quickly before I ruin my makeup. She always reminds me, makeup is costly than my tears. She told me that one day we will go to a green field, she will take me there and I will breathe as much as I can. Only I hope, on that day I will be able to see someone when I will close my eyes. At least once in my life, I want to feel that I am not alone.
– Afsana

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It has been ages since I went out of these four walls. These dirty walls are as colorless as I am. Light has never been able to enter my room or my life. The windows are too narrow for that. I helplessly scream in pain but my voice never reaches anyone, not even myself. Everyone sees me smiling because no one ever pays attention to my eyes. Even after all these battles, I remained a fancy girl. I ask people to bring me flowers, only those which has no fragrance. I never look in the mirror because I was never capable of looking into the eyes of this girl; this girl crying within me. I was sold by my husband for 3000 taka. I laughed a lot when I found that out how cheap the price of my love was to him. For me, the price of my love was very high, and I’m still paying for it. Sometimes it’s very hard to breathe. I want to dry my tears under the sun, or maybe get wet in the rain and let my tears flow with it. But where should I go? Who should I go to? No one waits for a prostitute. I cannot go anywhere. Now, I try to trust the lies, try to smile, and try to sell my love at good price. – Asha

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I am a liar. All my life I lied to myself. Whenever my heart shows me the truth, I beautifully lied to it. It’s very difficult for me to tell you the truth. I am also feeling nervous because I want you to show how strong I am, I do not want to show the dumb girl living inside me. I was sold when I was in my mother’s womb. They traded me before I was born. I was a born prostitute. I never had any friend, family or lover. No man looked into my eyes, or held my hand with love. But you know something; everyone needs someone, someone to love or someone to hurt. And I have no one. I sold my heart in the cost of lies without regret of suffering. Sometimes I feel, the time has stopped and I am sitting in the same place for ages. One day, I fell sick, very sick and I was taken to an old doctor. I was shivering in fever and started crying for no reason when the old man called me, ‘Maa, what’s your problem’. At the end of the prescription, he advised me to avoid things that are allergatic. I supposed to leave, but I was aimlessly sitting there. Then he asked me again to tell if I had something else to say. With great fear I asked him, ‘Sir, I am allergatic to love and lie, but that’s my life is all about, do you have any remedy?’ After a few minutes, the old doctor stood from his chair and blessed me by touching my head. That was the first time in my life someone touched me with respect and care. – Rubi

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I did not want to kill him. I wanted him to be in my life. I knew that if anyone could find it out, they would kill him. But I was able to hide him for many months. Then sometimes in morning when I went to sleep I asked myself why to punish someone by bringing into my life which has no hope, no tomorrow. But he was the only one with whom I talk like a child without being afraid, without being someone else. He also responded in my stomach like a butterfly by assuring that he will never leave me.

The day my madam found out I was pregnant; she wanted to kill my child. She was trying to kick me and I held her legs. I screamed, begged her to give me a chance to live. I did not leave her feet for how long I cannot say; then she stopped pushing me and asked me why I wanted to bring lifetime suffering. She left without hurting me anymore.

Then the time arrived. During delivery I had eclampsia and severe blood loss. Through the entire time I did not stop talking to my child, I whispered to him that we had to make the journey. Till then we survived many miracles. He was then three months old, his only favorite thing was bird. But we were caged; I was not able to show him any bird. We had no room and I had to go back to attend clients. With every passing day, I was afraid that one day my boy will hate me most. But whenever I looked at him he always smiled by assuring that all I had is him.

He was three months twenty days old when I handover him to a childless couple. They were crying after holding my baby. I looked from distant; felt he was in the right hands. My madam requested me to keep Murad, told me that I won’t survive without him. But my mother heart felt Murad will be happy with them than me. When they were leaving, the woman came to me, put a packet of money in my bag and said they will keep his name Murad, they will not change it. I said nothing. Then the man came closer to show me Murad for the last time. Told me that when he will grow older they will bring him back to me and if he wants to be with me, they won’t stop him. I looked at my child, he smiled to me like always. I said, ‘Never tell him, his mother was a prostitute. Never let him to search me. He should never know he was born in a cage. I want him to be a bird, to fly in the sky, if you can, helps him to do that.’ I returned their packet and was able to come back to the brothel without looking back; I do not want my child to smile at a prostitute. – Momota

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My uncle sold me in the brothel when I was nine, that time I was innocent. A type of innocent that I had no idea what is the difference between a mosque and a brothel….

A few days ago I was not in a mood for love, when my client was promising how much he loved me and how badly he wanted to take me away from this living hell to his beautiful heaven. With promises he kept telling me how badly he wanted to marry me; I was not up for drama that day, I just secretly dial his wife’s number from his phone. Then I continued to listen to him attentively, for solid thirty minutes in pin drop silence. When he asked me how I felt about him, I handover his phone and told him to ask his wife..

Yes, I am badass woman, I smoke, I sing, I dance. I’m tough and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, it’s okay. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself, which is enough. Now excuse me, your attention won’t pay my bills.
– Princess Lucky

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I had a very bad habit of falling in love with people whenever they showed me some love. I never get any love from anyone; I don’t even remember my family members or where I come from. I get nothing except extreme torture to my body and humiliation from people during my whole life in this place. I have fallen in love several times with a lot of my Ford customers or with whoever showed me their love and some compassion for me. Lots of men promise me that they will marry me and give me a family and then cheat me with money and flee never to be seen again. Though I know men cannot be trusted and they have broken my heart so badly but somehow I believed them and fell in love again and again. I don’t fall in love anymore. Now I know love is not for us. We prostitutes don’t belong to ‘Love’. People don’t think of us as human beings; how could they possibly love us?

For the last week, a strange middle-aged man has been visiting me. He was holding a bag in his hand with different sarees and machine-made blouses every day. The first day he came with a red bridal saree and asked me to wear it. He showed me a photo of a woman and asked me to put on my makeup like her as much as possible. At first, I laughed at him but after seeing his seriousness, I tried to put on the makeup myself following that photo. It was a very funny experience for me. That man sat with me the rest of the night but said no words and did nothing to me. That night was a very uncommon night for me. Then the next day he came with another ordinary saree and asked me to wear that one. With hesitation, I asked why he was doing these kinds of strange acts every night. And I was not prepared for his answer. His wife fled with someone else after their love marriage and he never married again after that incident.

That day he told me a lot about himself and his story and we fell asleep together. For the last week he has been coming every night for the whole night only to sleep beside me. I don’t know why I am feeling worried. I think I fell in love again with that strange man. I have been waiting the whole day for him and for when it will get dark and my strange man will come. I am waiting for him, brother. Last night was a very bad night for me. I didn’t sleep the whole night waiting for him but he didn’t show up. I am eagerly waiting and wishing that he will show up tonight_Ontora

 

 

The Timeless Faces

A timeless beautiful face has a strength that is everlasting. I am fascinated in capturing certain faces and some characters that are incredibly important to me as a photographer or as an admirer. I see the perpetual elegance of peoples’ faces and their human souls in the pictures I take. The journey of portraying these timeless faces started long ago when I found out there are certain people who are icons of heroism and charisma. Over and over I go back to them, find them and portray them again so that I am able to keep a part of these victorious souls with me. _GMB Akash

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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Every face is passing a message of anticipation. I have learned how to operate my photography equipment; I have studied how to take portraits and how to get the best environmental effect. But when I concentrate beyond technical things, these people become icons to me. I look into them through the lens and I try to put the message of anticipation into the photograph. This is the biggest challenge which has no rules; which can never be taught; which can be only a self-taught mastery of getting timeless faces into a photograph. _GMB Akash

 

‘Love’ the essence of life

If there’s one thing we all enjoy reading, it’s an authentic love story. One that fills our hearts with joy and hope but also teaches us of possible despair when involved in human attraction. One that inspires us with wonderful characters and their beautiful actions of selfless love. Love stories that take us into the characters’ world and sometimes make us fall in love.

This blog post is a tribute to those lovers and beautiful souls who love beyond boundaries.  Sharing the 10 most vibrant and memorable love stories with real love life experiences of the people portrayed here.

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My husband always cries over little things for me; last week I was sick and went for an injection in the hospital with him. Suddenly he started crying loudly while the nurse was preparing to inject me; I was feeling very shy because the nurse started laughing seeing him crying like a child. You know yet this man left me in my parents’ home the day of our wedding and never went to see me for the next 3 months.
It was his fault. He saw my younger sister with me and it was her that he wanted to marry.
My younger sister is the beautiful girl in our family. My husband sent a proposal to my father and never went to confirm who the real bride was! My parents mistakenly thought he liked me and they prepared everything for our marriage.

During our time it was prohibited for a groom to see the bride before marriage. On the wedding day, after our wedding ceremony he saw me and became faint because I looked ugly and he left the wedding ceremony but then he came back to his senses.

Now even if I mistakenly say that I am ugly he gets very angry with me. he says “maybe in my life I have done something good and that’s why God gave me the most beautiful wife in the world. I am lucky that’s why I got you!” We have children but we are now everything to each other. For the last 50 years I could not leave him for a day to go without him anywhere. He loves me so much._Sayad Mia and Safia Khatun

_MG_5993I spent that whole afternoon swimming in our abandoned pond like a crazy woman. No one knew what was happening inside me; my whole life was crushing inside my chest. I saw them together in my own bed. I can’t make you understand about that deep, burning pain in the chest if you have never gone through the betrayal of your partner who you once trusted the most and to whom you promised to live your whole life with in any situation.

My husband betrayed me, he betrayed me with my own blood whom I was upbringing all her life as if I was her mother. I never thought in my worse dreams that even she could do this to me: my only sister who was with me after the death of our mother. My only sister, whom I loved as my child, seized everything from me. She fell in love with my husband and took my nine years of married life and my future, my dreams, and all my beliefs that I could never rebuild again as a human being. Our family tried a lot to make her understand but she was in love; no one could make her understand. My father hit her miserably, tried to lock her in my parents’ home but she escaped again and again and came to my husband. I couldn’t say anything to her. She was my child, my sister. It was very tough for me to accept that situation. I wanted to kill myself several times in order to make the situation easier. I was finding a lot of ways to kill myself; to leave this life but I could not because of my son and maybe I am not brave enough. I handed my love to my sister and wished them luck the night I flew from our town and never retuned again. Last year in the middle of the night without thinking where I was going, where I would go, how would survive with my four-year-old son, I left everything. Nevertheless, I am alive. But inside me everything has died: my soul, my love, my every single dream, all my beliefs. I lost all my trust of everyone; I am just alive on the outside. I forgot to smile brother. Nowadays, even my smile appears as if I am crying.- Hasina Akhter

CB7A0644He has been making me laugh a lot by calling me ‘Robocop’ for the last month. It hurts when I laugh heavily because this month I will be on my ninth month of my pregnancy and he has never let me stop laughing for a minute. This last month he has been mocking me by calling me ‘Robocop’ because I can’t move very fast with my eight-month pregnant belly. I walk slowly, turn slowly, sit slowly, and for him I become a Robocop. I have never seen a Robocop before and I don’t even understand it but he watched that movie and for my better understanding he sometimes acts like a Robocop in front of me. He looks so funny that I can’t allow myself to laugh standing up.

We have already decided our child’s name; if it will be a boy, we will call him ‘Sagor’ (Ocean) and if will be a girl, we will call her ‘Nodi’ (River). I am expecting a boy but my Hero is expecting a girl because he says, “after we will become older, you can’t laugh like this anymore so I will be able to see your smile on my daughter’s face.” He loves my smile; that’s why he tries to make me laugh all the time.

He is working so hard every day making a gold chain for our child. I feel so blessed that I found my love and found this man in my life. I never hesitate to give thanks to Allah for his kindness upon me. I wish to die beside him._ Shahin and Jhuma

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I was 12 years old when I got married to him. I still remember. He came with a horse cart to marry me. No one got married in my entire village with a horse cart. I was so happy and proud! My husband paid 10 taka at that time for it. He could have bought a very big paddy field with that money!

After our wedding my husband used to call me ‘Ranga Bou’ which means ‘beautiful wife’. He said I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his whole life. But my husband had such dark skin colour that the village people always made jokes about him. They used to tell him he was like “a black stone wearing a pearl necklace.” But my husband never minded; he seemed happy and smiled when people told that joke! He always said to me, “See how beautiful you are!”

For the last 75 years we have been together. Two years ago, I went to visit my elder son and his family. I left my husband with my younger son and his family. My daughter-in-law said he used to call out every 10 minutes, “where is my Ranga Bou! Has she called? When she is coming back?”

He becomes crazy without me. We have never been separated in our entire married life. We wake up together and pray our morning prayers together. He cannot eat if I don’t cook the meal with my own hands! But when we sit down to eat he gives me the biggest piece of the fish!

If I ever got mad at him and stopped talking to him, he always sat beside me and never moved to anywhere else until I smiled at him. If I disappeared for a few minutes from his sight, he used to look for me everywhere and started calling, “where is my Ranga Bou?” I can never go anywhere because of him.

Maybe we will not see each other much longer. We are almost near our last age! I don’t want to go before him. He will become crazy without me. He will look for his Ranga Bou everywhere! My wish is for God to take me after him! – Mosir Uddin Sarder (105) and his Ranga Bou 87

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My parents are very poor. I was the main reason for their stress. When I grew up everyone around me wanted to settle me soon. They said otherwise it would be too late to get any groom for a short, black girl. My main tasks were putting a lot of powder on my face and wearing shoes that were too difficult to walk in. Those potential grooms and their families never liked me. It was difficult to express myself when they questioned me about things like how well I could cook or how much I was earning. More awkwardly was when they asked me to walk in order to check if my legs were okay, or touched my hair to check if it was fake or real. When I met my husband we met outside in a nearby field. I felt disgusted when I was going to meet him for the first time. I wanted to go back and never meet him; my relative forced me to go and asked me to talk to him alone.

We were sitting silently; I was looking at my shoes and expecting to hear the same questions. He pointed at my shoes and asked me how I could manage to walk in those. His face was so genuine that I started laughing. Then he told me I can ask him anything that I wanted to know. I paused for a while because that had never happened to me before. No one ever asked me if I had any questions for the groom. I asked him what kind of girl he wants to marry. He told me, ‘I want a wife who can laugh just like you. I earn very little and have no great qualities to share. Only sometimes I can cook very well and sing old songs. If you think I am worthy of you, I will bring my mother.’

It’s been six months that we have been married. I did not wear those shoes again; he only buys slippers for me. After work we return home together. At that time, we buy vegetables and laugh at silly things. But we never talk about love. We feel very shy to talk about it and have never said ‘I love you’ to each other. On this path it takes more time to reach home, but we love to walk the extra miles together.

– Textile worker Saheena Begum (19) with husband Mominul Islam (21)

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Every day it was my task to wait for my father in the evening. I waited, and waited for him to arrive home from our village market. When he returned with his happy face, my first question was “what did you bring for me today?” As always the reply was with another question, “who will bring you sweets every day when I won’t be here anymore?” I used to always laugh at his questions and replied “who? You don’t know who my husband will be!” I don’t remember my mother; I lost her when I was only two years old. My father is the only one who took care of me the last six years of his life. After that my aunty took me with her as a servant.

How time flies! We have been together for the last ten years. People say we are a very happy couple. We were actually very young when we first met. This is our love marriage. I met him first at my aunt’s house when he was there for a job. I first saw him when I opened the door. He was looking at me and unintentionally I smiled at him and fortunately he smiled back. I can’t explain that heavenly moment when I fell in love. From that day on he started coming in front of our house every single day. I could see him waiting at the grocery shop in front of our house from our veranda. After a month I managed to talk to him with my cousin. I could not stop myself from asking him why he came every day in front of our house and waited looking at our veranda? He didn’t answer my question but rather asked me another question, “will you marry me?”

I have no regrets even though we are very poor. We have almost nothing except a bed. Together we earn a very little amount of money but we are never hopeless about our earning and our life. We understand each other completely. The most valued part is that we love each other unconditionally. We help each other in our tasks. He helps me even with my household work. He takes cares for our daughter when I work. When I go to take bath in our nearby river he always comes with me for my safekeeping. He always pays attention for us even if I do something silly. He helps me in every possible way. Our slum’s women are surely jealous of me. I am certainly blessed with him.

My only regret in my whole life is that my father could not see how happy I am with my husband. I cry almost every night going to sleep that my father could not see my happiness. How lucky I am finding a husband who cares for me like parents care for their child. Our God is so kind that he gave me my husband. You know what? He always brings sweets for me and puts them under my pillow. When I cry for my father in the night, he gives me one in my hand like I am a child crying for sweets. This makes me cry even more. I love this man more than my life. _Sonia and Arif.

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Falling in love is one of the most beautiful, rewarding and scariest things you could ever do. When you fall for someone, you can’t think of your life for a second without them! I met him at the bathing-place on the bank of the river near our house where I used to bathe since my childhood. He was the new shopkeeper of the shop beside the dock where we go. The first moment I saw him, I fell in love. It was not as if I just liked him, I was sure that it was love and he was the man I wanted to be with my whole life. I was shy and confused to let anyone know about the situation I was going through. But always inside of me there was something missing. It was like I was missing him every moment, everywhere, whatever I was doing.

Without any reason I started visiting the nearby road where the shop was located. I started buying unnecessary things from the shop or taking baths two or three times a day so that, while going or coming back from the river I could see him. I remember, one day while having lunch after coming from the river, my mother said to me, “I think you are sick and I am thinking of taking you to the hospital. Why are you taking so many baths a day? I don’t think this is normal!” Those words made me laugh so hard that I could not finish my lunch and she became confused again. I was thinking to myself, yes I am sick; sick for that man I love. I have no idea; how time passed by. Those six months felt just like a dream. Besides him, everyone knew that I loved him. I was wondering how this could be possible that he doesn’t know how much I love him. One day while returning from school, I was searching for him inside the shop but he was nowhere. Suddenly from behind me he asked, “are you looking for me?” I didn’t answer. I just smiled looking at his beautiful face.

We had to fight a lot and for a long time in order to be together. My father was committed to his younger sister to marry me with her elder son. But I fell in love with my Shaiful and we were both in love. He told me several times to fly away with him. But I didn’t want to fly with my father’s reputation and everyone’s belief in me. I was the elder daughter of my parents. Though I was intensely in love I didn’t forget the responsibility of my family. I promised him that I will be with him no matter what but I could not fly. I told him, no one can be happy without their parents’ blessings. He kept faith in me. I wanted to marry him with my father’s permission and blessings on us. We waited to manage our family for 2 years. Finally, after a lot of storms proving our dedication and honesty, they allowed us to marry and approved our relationship.

We learned in our lives, if you wish for something, God will give it to you. You have to believe in your hope and stick to it. That’s why we named our daughter; ‘Iccha’ (wish). She is only 25 days old. We are very happy because of our daughter. We wanted a daughter from God and God granted our wish. God is always with us. We are so grateful to him. -Bilkis and Shaiful

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Every time I see my gorgeous wife I fall in love with her again. Every single day for the last 14 years I have fallen for her. Every day I told myself how beautiful she is. I like every single thing about her. How she talks, how she looks, how she smiles, her hair, her nose, her smell, her hands, everything! I like her feet most; but she never lets me see her feet nor let me touch them. She thinks her feet are not as beautiful as much as I would like them to be. I can’t explain how much I like her a little more every day. I keep looking at her all day. But she never trusts my opinions of her. She always works under sun light with me and she keeps telling me that she is not beautiful anymore. She says she is getting dark; she is getting ugly.

This makes me very angry sometimes. I wish I could make her understand how very beautiful she is and how fortunate I am to get her as my wife, as my best friend, as my soulmate.

My parents were like my friends, but after I lost them my wife become my everything. I never hide anything from my wife and I always accept her opinion for anything and everything I do.

My wife means everything to me. She has been with me for the last 14 years. For the last 14 years I never needed any other friends. Once she went to her parents’ house for two days without me. Those two days I cried a lot and I was so lonely. I could not do any work and I even did not have anybody to talk to. When she came back, after seeing her I started crying immediately. Whenever I cry she told me, “You are a stupid man. I am not going anywhere anymore without my stupid husband”.

I am a very strong man. I had never cried in front of anybody. But when I have any little problems or sickness, I hold my wife and start crying and she always mocks me for that. In front of her, I become like a child. We didn’t have any children during these 14 years. We never complain to God for that. And we are happy. We are so grateful to God that he gave us each other. _Abdul sobhan and Raseda begum

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Drying rice is very hard work. My whole family and I have been doing this work for the last 10 years. We are accustomed to this work. You have to work under this fire hot sun the whole day. This is almost impossible for people who are not used to it. The sun is out the entire duration of our work.

Last year Khadeja and her family had a migrant from Sylet to work here in this rich drying field. She fainted the first day when she started working. We all ran to see her. She was so beautiful, like a water lily. I never saw such beauty as hers. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. But I never knew life is much harder than we think. I fell in love with someone who is three years older than me. Those first few weeks were really very tough for me to understand myself; how was this possible? Did I really love her? What is going on with me, and thousands of other unsolved questions. But it was love. I never felt like this before. I really fell for my water lily; I loved her and wanted to marry her.

We were living in the same field as well as working in the same field too for drying rice. She started avoiding me the first time she knew that I loved her. It was very difficult for me to make her understand that I really loved her. I started working her portion of the work after finishing my part. I started to be in the same group with her to help in her work so that sometimes I could touch her fingertips while picking up the basket together. For the next couple of months that lucky fingertip touching was everything to me. Finally, she fell for me after three months of my unconditional love for her. The hardest job was to manage our families for our marriage. Nobody wanted to accept this relationship. But we were determined. Because of our determination our families finally accepted our marriage.

We got married 16 days ago. I live with my parents and younger brother and sister all together in this tiny room. My wife and I sleep in the bed and my family members sleep on the floor. We are working extra hours for renting our own room. My mother left the bed for me and my new bride. We stay awake until everyone sleeps in order to at least hold each other. After finishing our work we go to the nearby river to pass some time together where no one can see us and smile on us. My Lily is very shy and I love her shyness the most.

_Moin Uddin -20 and Khadeja -23

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I always call my wife crazy because of her mood fluctuations.

Usually when we go for a rickshaw ride, she always holds my hands or she rests her head on my shoulder. She never leaves my hands for a minute. But yesterday suddenly she was rigid for 30 minutes like mountain! This is not the first time for me. For the last 7 years I have been tolerant of her mood fluctuations. But every time after 15 to 30 minutes of being stiff, she becomes normal again and holds my hand with love and will tell me “I love you Moina Pakhi.”

I understand her very well. When she gets upset or feels down, I just keep calm and don’t make her angry.

She loves me like a child. She always keeps telling me “you are my best friend”, “you are my parents”, and “you are my life”.
We are like twins. We like everything the same. We talk the same way, we like the same color; we like to eat the same kinds of food. We both like to swim in the river. Every month I have to take her to the river to swim with her. She likes street food, so almost once a week, we have to walk on the street and eat street food. She likes villages, so almost every month we go to visit a village for the whole day.

She always makes fun of me telling me “you are not my husband, you are my girlfriend” When we are together we behave like children, we feel more joyful together. Also we fight a lot. But we cannot survive more than few hours without talking to each other.
I have to say I’m sorry to her every time to stop the fighting. Even if she makes mistakes I have to say I’m sorry. She behaves like she did nothing. But this never bothers me.
When I get angry I always tell myself, she is my life. How can I not support my life when she is in a bad mood? I feel when we fight, she needs me most. I know she keeps waiting for me; that moment when I will say I’m sorry to her and talk to her again. I know she would die if I don’t start talking to her_ Haq Mia and Bilkis Begum

 

 

Life Crisis: The Perilous Journey of Rohingya Refugees

Extreme violence in Myanmar has forced Rohingya families to flee the state. Homes and fields have been set on fire; family members have been killed and the intensity continues. On 25 August 2017, Myanmar’s military and local militia launched a wave of “clearance operations.” This was allegedly in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine state that turned into widespread violence against civilians. More than 700,000 Rohingya people have fled across the border since August to escape a brutal military crackdown and have poured into Bangladesh. The momentum and scale of arrivals make this the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Over 1,400 children have arrived by themselves after witnessing the deaths of their parents and loved ones. Families are in urgent need of life-saving food assistance, water, sanitation, shelter, health and support. The influx of refugees is expected to continue and the small region of Bangladesh does not have the capacity to support them.

 

I had the privilege of personally distributing donations from my friends and myself in the Rohingya refugee camps. I have gone from dwelling to dwelling helping mainly women with children, older women and children who lost their parents. More than 1500 families received much-needed cash in their life crisis moment.

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‘Women of Strength and Courage’

Encounter the 10 most outstanding examples of women full of courage, strength, love and loyalty. As you will explore and travel through the cities of all these women, you will know how hard their lives are as well as the circumstances that leads them to their ultimate acts of courage and still remain strong. In these stories, you will meet some fascinating, heroic and relentless women who each possess a beautiful story in their hearts which is worthy to share with the world.

Presenting 10 real-life stories which will melt your hearts and inspire bravery in yourselves.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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The day I was born, no one even touched their food, as I was the fourth daughter of my parents. My black skin color made the situation more miserable for them. My three elder sisters were fair, tall and slim. I was clearly a burden for my poor parents, everyone told me that throughout my childhood. Sometimes I heard my mother telling my father that bringing me into their life was a curse. So I started praying to God, almost every day I prayed to make me a little bit fairer, taller and slimmer. My father managed to fix my marriage by giving false promises to the groom. The kind hearted guy married the ugliest girl of our village. Overnight he became the kindest guy of his generation. I was told never to return to home ever again. So my only option was to listen to my kind hearted husband’s every order. I was fearful all the time. A kind of fear every black girl feels about losing her husband. Every day he used to beat me miserably, because of the false promises my father made to him. I always kept quiet as I thought the fault was all mine. One day he threw hot water onto my feet, I remained silent. I couldn’t sleep for countless nights in fear of losing everything that was never mine. One day when I sat to eat, without any warning signs he kicked me from the back. When I fell to the ground, I was awake; I took the stick nearest to me and started beating him, without giving him any chance to attack me. I was beating every single person of my life who humiliated me. Everyone who ripped my soul. No one came to stop me and I saw fear on their faces. I took my son and left that house forever. I never cried for a single time after that. Never prayed to God to make me beautiful, never begged anyone to love me. I work as a labourer. Whenever I see little black girls working in the site, I always smile to them and tell them how beautiful they are. They asked me with surprise ‘how can a black girl be beautiful?’. I tell them, ‘Only beautiful is the person who has a beautiful heart.’ – Monowara

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When I first came with my motorcycle to this village, a lot of villagers gathered and surrounded me like they never saw something like this before. People used to show me to each other and said “see the bad women who is riding a motorcycle”. Now many girls from this village want to learn how to ride a motorcycle from me!

I rode a motorcycle before my marriage. Now I work with an international NGO. When I was younger I used to go to school using my bicycle. My husband liked me because I was different from the others. My husband can’t drive so he always sits behind me on the motorcycle! This is very unusual for my village people. But my husband always told me, “never listen to people. “

My husband and my two daughters are always proud of me. One daughter is named Jannat and is 11 years old. My younger daughter is 5 years old. I bought bicycles for both of them with 11 thousand taka which I saved from my salary. My elder daughter goes to school with her bicycle. I always told her that Men and women have the same rights. If a man can ride a bicycle and motorcycle, why you can’t?

I dream that my daughters will be doctor when they grow up. I also bought a big land with my own savings for my daughters so they can open their own clinic after finishing their studies. 

My mother was seven years old when she got married. When I grew up, my mother started her studies with me from class one. We went to school together until class 8 .Then my Mother did not continue her education because of our big family. But she always told me, ” Lucky you have to be independent, you have to do a job and fulfill your all dream “
_Lucky (38)

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‘Our landlord used to call me illiterate. The landlord has a daughter same age of mine. She attended school, college, and then university. I went to work when she went for education. Recently she got married to a wealthy family and her parents gave a lot of dowry. My landlord’s daughter refused to do any job as it does not suit her in-laws status and her parents are bound to give her many gifts all the time.

On the contrary, my salary helps my parents to live in a good house, to buy good foods, the overtime money I earn goes to my younger sisters’ education. The work I am doing is my dignity, I am happy to be illiterate – Monowara (25)

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During my birth, my mother died. My parents were from a remote village. So my father could not do anything for saving her life. I grew up with my grandparents and then with my uncle’s family. I was a very brave lady from my childhood. My environment had pushed me to be a brave woman. I did every kind of work that a man does. I took care of our 7 cows. Along with our maid I dried thousands of sacks of rice. I was strong and brave like a man. Our villagers used to say, “You will never get married. Who will marry a girl that is like a man? Who will be her family? No man will live with her!” I was never concerned about those words because at that time my only thoughts were to work for a living and to feed myself as well as and to make my family members happy. I understood at that age, that nothing but work can make people happy.

Proving everyone wrong; I got married when I was 15 years old. I got the most loving husband. I found a dream come true. I have never imagined a life that could be so colorful. My husband was a very loving man. I had never found that much love ever like that which I got from him. But that happiness was really for a short period of time. I got a divorce after 3 years of my marriage. They wanted a child from me, but I could not give them a child. God have not given me that power to conceive. Doctors said I am unable to become a mother. For 3 years I had done everything and eaten
everything people told me about to facilitate a pregnancy.Nothing happened. Finally, making everyone right again, my husband of 3 years left me because I can’t be a mother. When I found my marriage was over I thought my life was over too. It is impossible for me to describe the depth of the pain when you get the most beautiful thing in your life and then lose it again in front of your eyes.

I have never married again, but became a midwife instead. I had been interested in it since my childhood. No one could save my mother. So I wanted to save mothers’ lives. For that, I took training from the midwife of our village. I have been brave since my childhood. From my acts people started to believe in me. They started wanting me in their labor room. They started to feel confident when I am there in their labor room. I saved hundreds of women’s lives. But I am badly defeated again by my fate. I could not save my mother’s life. My adopted daughter whom I was calling ‘Maa’ for the last 25 years left me last month in her labor room. I could not save my mother’s life again- Roksana 60

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Before I understood the world around me, I was feed with word like ugly, black, worthless. The more I grew up more I understood the world only see, it does not feel. There is very little value of inner beauty, everything is about skin and color. When I was a child, people do not adore me, they always told my parents to take care of me so I can become little fair. I was always forced to follow someone as role model, as my parents reminded me what an ugly girl could do in her life. When I was a teenager, in my school during award ceremony teachers let only beautiful girl to sit in the front row. Ugly girls like me were supposed to do all the works and sat in the last bench of the class. I grew up frightened and embarrassed by losing all my sense of pride. I lost my dignity in the game of color and beauty. But in this journey, I never stopped being a good soul. No matter how much people hurt me with their words or actions. But I continued to live in a fear that I born with nothing. After losing my husband I was about to die with my twin daughters. They were very young and fragile. I had nothing left. And then one of my relative told me, what would happen to my daughters who exactly look like me. That very moment, I felt different. I questioned myself how I can bring worth in my daughter’s life. That day, that vulnerable ugly woman died to give identity to her daughters. I cannot remember when last time I took rest. I traveled two days alone to arrive here. I did not know anyone, any place and had no idea how I could survive. How an ugly woman could survive and made her way to life. I worked ten years of my life to change my identity. Now I built a house in my village. My daughters are going to the best school. And I have saved a good amount of money for myself. Every time when I go to visit my daughters I tell them, only pretty are the people who have good heart and do no harm to other people. I will never let them to fall in the trap of ugliness of a world which only value skin.
– Afroza (38)

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My daughter was 6 years old, my elder son was 3 and a half years old and my younger son was only 5 months old when I moved to Dhaka twenty years ago. I never spent a single penny for myself; I walked mile after mile going from one student’s house to another student’s house to give private tuition on Math. Sometimes I had to walk more than 8 kilometers in one day. Every day I started at 7am and came back home after work around 11pm. Most of the time I did not use any transportation; I did not eat the whole day in order to save money for my children’s education. After an entire day of work, I was exhausted physically as well as mentally and also emotionally drained. But I never gave up my dream!

My father died when I was 13 years old, and I was the elder daughter of my family so I had to look after my whole family. I worked in our field and at the same time I also continued my education. I always told my children about my struggles and how hard I had to work to earn to continue their education. They always gave me hope that they will do their best to fulfill my dream. My children were always keen on learning. They made no demands and lived a very simple life with me!

Four years ago I started this pharmacy with my own income; now I don’t teach anymore. I take care of my family with the income I get from this pharmacy. Now my daughter is a doctor and my elder son is a mechanical engineer. My younger son is studying at Dhaka University. My entire dream came true only because of my determination and hard work as well as the sacrifices I made.

If every woman started working, there would be no poverty. Women can change the entire society as well as their own lives. I always pray to God that I must die while I am working. _ Rakiba Akter 47

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After two years I readmitted to my class. My parents were not able to send me to school last two years. I am very afraid to start again. I am going to meet new friends who will be two years younger than me. I have no idea if I will be able to make new friends or not. I am very scared but I really want to continue my education. Today, when I was telling my grandmother that I should not go now, I should go some time later. Then she told me, ‘If I were you, sixty years ago I would run to my school having the chance of going to school. Not everyone gets a second chance, always remember, it’s now or never.’ I am nervous from head to toe but I am on my way. I really hope my teacher will smile to me and my new classmates will accept me as their friend. But if they don’t, I will not give up. I do not want to become someone who lost before fighting the battle of dream.
– Afsana

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Ten years ago, I cried vulnerably by sitting exactly here. I cried in fear, in helplessness, in shame. In my fifteen years of marriage life, I never thought my husband could ever leave me. There was nothing painful when I was abandoned by the person I trusted most. I spent that very evening by sitting in our river side. No one knew what was happening inside me, my whole life was crushing inside mychest and I was sitting in silence far from everything. Then I decided to die. It was easier to die than live. I took out our boat, went in the middle of the river, calmly tied my legs with a piece of my torn cloth and jumped. I was my father’s wild girl; he taught me how to swim in very tender age. He bravely told everyone if his girl needed she could cross the river by swimming. But I was drowning. I was seeing death very closely and then I saw the face of my father. At that night, when I was desperate to die, my death father was trying to hold me. I never thought I would try to save myself that moment and wanted dearly to breathe. I had no idea how I was managed to free myself and swim. I managed to save myself from the death which was about to kill me. The fisher men of my village found me before I lost my sense. I was a woman who never went outside of her village in thirty years of her life. In the same day, I took the launch and arrived in the city. I had no idea how to earn, where to sleep, what to eat. I was crying by sitting in this place, when my friend Sufiya came and sat beside me. She looked at me and asked me, ‘What is the price of your tears?’ I become angry and told her, ‘Nothing?’ She wept off my tears, put the bucket above my head and said, ‘Then never cry again.’ It’s been ten years we are friends. Since the day I never cry again. That helpless woman had died in the tide of river, I am now my father’s girl who is able to cross any river or ocean.
– Shormila (mother of Suruj 12) with her friend Sufiya in the right

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I have no good memory about my childhood. I do not want to remember what had happened to me when I was a kid. When I open my wound it brings unbearable pain to my heart. I feel pity for me. I feel pity for the little girl who was alone, very alone. People killed my childhood, they torn me into so many pieces that I still could not fix. I was twelve years old. When I was getting dressed I thought, I must be going somewhere to play. My family married me off when I was thinking about school picnic. I was beaten every day for dowry without knowing what dowry actually mean. I asked my husband where I would find dowry, and he had beaten me hard. All they wanted was money to a child. And my family was not able to give them anything.

I gave birth to my daughter when I was thirteen. I hold her like a doll and was afraid if they take her from me to bring any dowry. That was my childhood and motherhood. One of my favourite teachers named my daughter ‘Joyita’. She told me, my daughter will bring ‘victory’ to me, that is the meaning of her name. That did not happen easily. I was kicked out from my house and I had no place to go. Thirteen years old mother and her daughter had no place in this brutal world for one night. Strangely, I had received help from people whom I never knew. Life is so strange that I realized at very tender age. The people I loved most was turned into strangers. My battle was not about surviving. My battle was living in a loveless world and holding my daughter with a heart full of love. I never knew what true love was, what it feels to be loved. But my daughter held me tightly and I told myself I will win for her, I will win to save my daughter’s childhood.

Soon I will finish my university, my daughter Jotiya is in school. This is my world. Every corner of this room is decorated by me and my daughter. This is our parlour and it’s name is ‘Joyita Beauty Parlour’. I work, laugh and dream. People asked me why I am not starting my life newly. I ask them what does mean by new. They elaborately said, new mean a new man, new relationship. I laugh at lot. I have survived ten years of a battle with my little baby. Do I really need to have a new man to give a new meaning to my life? No, I don’t need. If my wound ever heals, may be one day I will find someone, someone who will make me believe in love.
– Sayma (23)

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The smile of my father was very peaceful. Even after facing struggle, poverty, illness he never forgot to laugh. Nothing was able to take away his beautiful smile. He was suffering from an illness. I was very young then. Other than praying hard for him I was not able to do anything. Whenever we stayed in hospital we hardly received any hope for him. My family had no idea of a better treatment. I lost my father because we were not able to understand what to do for his treatment. It’s been so many years I have lost my father. But I am trying to hold his smile even now. Whenever I see any little girl is feeding her father in a hospital bed, I stop for sometimes. I see my father there, smiling at me. Sometimes small girls stop me and ask, ‘Sister, do you think my father will be okay?’ With smile, I always say, ‘Of course, he will be. For you.’ Giving hope is as important as prescribing medicine. Sometimes I feel very tired; my toes hurt a lot and shoulder become stiff, sometimes people’s bad behaviours break me entirely, but then I see my father smiling at me from the patient bed. I stand up and continue to serve people. Whenever I am able to treat a father and he goes back to home with his daughter, I smile, as like my father does all the time from very far. Its easier to fight against every disease; we only have to add love and care with the medicine.

– Sabina Yesmin (25)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Heroes of Life’ – Part III

‘Heroes of Life’ – are those incredible humans who always find their way to light and love. They had known defeat, suffering, and struggles, yet they possess a beautiful story in their hearts, which is worthy to share with the world.

Sharing 10 real life stories which will definitely melt your heart

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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I wanted to join the war in 1971 from the very beginning when it started. But my new bride and my mother did not let me go. That evening, everything we had ended. Suddenly the Pakistani military came with our local Bengali Rajakars (war criminals) who were aiding Pakistan. They killed our neighbors. We all had to hide in the rotten pond in our backyard with my newborn boy. For hours we covered ourselves with the water hyacinth. My newborn died after that day from pneumonia.

After that I joined up as a freedom fighter for the Bengali people. I was only 22. At that age we naturally feel more power in our blood. But I never knew that I was so powerful. I came to know the meaning of my name in our base camp. My name is Hazrat Ali; according to Islam and our prophet Muhammad, ‘Hazrat Ali’ was the greatest warrior. In our camp everyone respected me as a sincere fighter. They always tried to inspire courage for others by saying “we have Hazrat Ali with us, nothing will happen.” I used to stay awake the whole night in hunger. I don’t know how many nights I didn’t sleep or how many days we didn’t eat but I never felt tired. I fought for our country till the war ended. Once I got caught by the Pakistani military. They tortured me severally and I thought, “I am dead”. They threw me in a river with other dead bodies. But if God wants to save you no one can do anything. God saved my life.

I fought for the freedom of my country but no one cares about me now! Now I am a rickshaw van driver. With these hands I fought for our country and now I have to fight for a living. I have two sons but they never do anything for me. They don’t even come to see my wife and me. I get nothing in my life; I never got any allowance from the government. I went to many offices with my evidence of having been a freedom fighter but I still have never received anything. I got tired of visiting offices and showing my evidence when nothing happens. Imagine how I felt when I saw this news article online, ‘Many fake freedom fighters receiving govt allowances’.

At my age it’s very difficult for me to ride a rickshaw. I feel we fought for nothing. We even could not free ourselves from poverty. – Hazrat Ali (69)

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My father always said, “Only your education can bring light into our poor lives.”

My father has been selling street food (Chotpoti) for the last 25 years. He used to earn very little and with that little bit of income he had been maintaining our family and my education. We always had a crisis situation in our family. My mother got by for months and months wearing only one cloth. But even though, we lived in a slum my parents never let me miss my school for a single day. My mother always told my father “one day our daughter, Moina will get a good job and she will never let you go sell street food anymore.”

My mother always inspired me to continue my education even when several times I wanted to start working in a textile factory because of our family’s daily crisis. But she never allowed it. She, herself worked as a maid but never let me stop my studies.
Now my father is 60 years old and he gets sick all the time. His income is not sufficient to run our family. For the last three years I have been working at a NGO’s school as a teacher. Besides my job I am completing my graduation from college. Whatever I earn from my job I continue my education and also with that money I cover my family expenses. I also take care of my younger brother’s education. Besides my job, I also give tuition classes to 5 children.

I always feel very proud of my father. I am proud that he is a street food seller. I also give free classes to slum children so they can be educated and help their parents. Only education can bring light into this dark place. _Moina Akter 20

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During my birth, my mother died. My parents were from a remote village. So my father could not do anything for saving her life. I grew up with my grandparents and then with my uncle’s family. I was a very brave lady from my childhood. My environment had pushed me to be a brave woman. I did every kind of work that a man does. I took care of our 7 cows. Along with our maid I dried thousands of sacks of rice. I was strong and brave like a man. Our villagers used to say, “You will never get married. Who will marry a girl that is like a man? Who will be her family? No man will live with her!” I was never concerned about those words because at that time my only thoughts were to work for a living and to feed myself as well as and to make my family members happy. I understood at that age, that nothing but work can make people happy.

Proving everyone wrong; I got married when I was 15 years old. I got the most loving husband. I found a dream come true. I have never imagined a life that could be so colorful. My husband was a very loving man. I had never found that much love ever like that which I got from him. But that happiness was really for a short period of time. I got a divorce after 3 years of my marriage. They wanted a child from me, but I could not give them a child. God have not given me that power to conceive. Doctors said I am unable to become a mother. For 3 years I had done everything and eaten
everything people told me about to facilitate a pregnancy.Nothing happened. Finally, making everyone right again, my husband of 3 years left me because I can’t be a mother. When I found my marriage was over I thought my life was over too. It is impossible for me to describe the depth of the pain when you get the most beautiful thing in your life and then lose it again in front of your eyes.

I have never married again, but became a midwife instead. I had been interested in it since my childhood. No one could save my mother. So I wanted to save mothers’ lives. For that, I took training from the midwife of our village. I have been brave since my childhood. From my acts people started to believe in me. They started wanting me in their labor room. They started to feel confident when I am there in their labor room. I saved hundreds of women’s lives. But I am badly defeated again by my fate. I could not save my mother’s life. My adopted daughter whom I was calling ‘Maa’ for the last 25 years left me last month in her labor room. I could not save my mother’s life again- Roksana 60

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When I was a kid, people used to mock me all the time. Everywhere people saw me they would point at me and say to each other, “see,there is a dwarf coming.” They always made fun of me. It was very hurtful for me. I never hurt anyone to my knowledge, but everyone has hurt me by their words and actions. I was always shy and nervous to go close to people. I had no friends when I was a child. Nobody wanted to mingle with a dwarf. My parents were also ashamed of me because I am a midget. I could not find a better profession than working in the circus. When I got to know about this world, I wanted to be a clown to make people happy. There’s a lot of freedom in this rock and roll world of circus. Its where, all my freakishness goes away. It’s the best world for me to live in. Now If I can bring smiles to people’s faces then I feel very happy. I don’t think anyone thinks of us as artists or actors; they only think we are clowns! -Reaz

Faijuddin Molla 80

I see thousands of people every day. Waves of people come and go. So many kinds of people I see and I think that I am the only one who has no one. I am the only person who has been suffering loneliness from the very beginning;I am an orphan. I never saw my parents. I think I am the unluckiest person alive who has no one. Every day I pray to God to take me to him. He already took everyone from me; why is he not taking me to them? This life is unbearable now. Without having anyone no one can survive. I have no one to talk to. I don’t know how many days have passed before talking with you. I don’t go outside in the day light. People don’t like to see me. They think I am the cursed one; for me all my family members have died and I am the only one who is alive.

My wife died giving birth to our second child. My daughter and I raised him with a lot of struggle. My daughter was also a little kid;she was only 8 years old. But what happened after enduring this much hardship for my son? He died in his 22nd year. I could not even marry my son with someone. He died in a bus accident. My daughter died the year after my son had died and left her 6-year-old daughter with me. I was only surviving for Sonia; Sonia my granddaughter. She was my everything. For the last 18 years she was my night and day. She was a beautiful and happy girl. I never knew she was in so much pain that she needed to commit suicide in our room with her scarf. I never knew! She never said anything to me! I never could feel her pain. People say I am cursed.Sometimes I think they are right; if not, then why would I not be able to understand my Sonia’s pain? How could I let her do that? She died because of her love. That man used to come sometimes but I never talked to him. He used to come and sit beside me and cry like a child.

I have been living alone for the last 4 years and waiting to see my last day. I don’t know what God wants from me. Why in this crowded world have I no one? For me being alive is a curse now. – Faiz Uddin Molla 80

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I am definitely a happy person. In my life I have never been a negative person. That one thing reinforced my life and made me happy forever. I have never had regrets about anything. I always let everything go that I can’t hold. Whatever I did in my life I always felt blessed about it. I found happiness in every little thing I have ever done. I believe that, we can never love anything in life if we can’t appreciate the small things.

I remember the next day of our marriage; my wife and I went to the river together in the neighboring village to bathe. She was swimming in the little lake beside the river. I had never seen that much happiness in anyone’s face before, like I saw in her face and eyes that day. That was the best memory I can recall now. There are several memories like this and they are priceless.

My lovely wife Rina is the best gift I found in my life. She always tries to be close to me when I return from my work. Villagers make fun of my wife calling her a cuddling cat. She is very passionate with me and loves me unconditionally. For the last 45 years she never went to her parents’ home leaving me alone. When she conceived for the first time she was at her parents’ house for nine months and insisted that I also had to be with her that whole nine months in her parents’ home. That was a little silly for me but I was really happy for that; she can’t live without me for even one day.

I am a small businessman who sells wooden furniture. Whatever I earn with that I can survive happily with my family. I have two beautiful children who love and respect me a lot. My family members never wanted anything more than what I could afford. You don’t need too much to be happy. Life is beautiful if you see happiness in every little thing. I have learnt from life, ” if you don’t want too much from life, life gives you so much.”-Abdul Hossain 72

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Last evening after my factory job I went to buy a veil for myself because I was not feeling protected with my dress any more. I had been saving money for the last year to buy my veil because I was not feeling safe in my everyday attire.

For the last three years I have been working in that factory to support my family. Living in a slum is very difficult for young girls. I have to face inappropriate teasing and sexual harassment almost every day. Every day on the way to my textile factory, young boys and men look at me in a very bad manner. They behave in a way as if it is their right to look at me badly and to use abusive words because I am a slum girl.

When I wash my hands and face in the morning, every single man who passes by gives me a bad look. They try to see my whole body with awful bad intentions. Sometimes, in my mind I think about poking their eyes but I can’t do it because they are men and stronger than us. They can harass us but we can’t even protest. They look at us as if we are not wearing anything. I don’t understand why they look at our chests like we are not wearing anything.

We have no privacy here. People can see us no matter what we are doing; even resting inside our room. We have no windows so we have to keep our door open all the time during the day. At night I am always afraid that somebody enters our house and does terrible things to us. There have been many nights when I never closed my eyes. Every single sound of a man worries me during whole nights -_ Shumi

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I have been terribly worried for the last nine months. My only daughter is almost 45 years old. She was trying her whole life for a baby but God was not with her. But she never gave up on her hope nor on God. She has had 5 miscarriages. Doctors told her not to try again because that many miscarriages is not good for her health. But she almost dedicated her life to having a child. My son-in-law is a very kindhearted and obliging to my daughter.

I am going to see my grandson today. I am so excited that my younger son who is taking me to see my grandson has been telling me to eat something since the morning. I don’t want to go eat then I might miss the train or I might get left behind. I will eat something when I see my grandson. Baba, I never have felt this happy ever before. Please pray for my grandson. I am counting every second to reach to him.- Johura Begum (80)

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My father died in a road accident 6 years ago which left us on the street. For several days we ate nothing. We had no money and no rice at our home. We could not pay the rent of our one room house. My mother then started working in this brick breaking factory after only a few days of my father’s death. She was not even physically and mentally ready after losing my father. Her eyes were still wet for her loving husband. I saw her crying every night holding my younger brother.

We had nobody else. My father and mother had a love marriage so their families did not accept them. They came to Dhaka in order to survive and my father started riding a rickshaw. But after my father died, my mother alone could not earn enough money, even when she worked from early morning to evening. I saw how she suffered every evening with her body pain. I could not stand to see her struggle alone and I started working with my mother when I was only 6 years old.

My mother cried loudly holding me on her chest the first day I went to work beside her. She never wanted to take me with her to work there. My father always had a dream to send me and my younger brother to school.

I could hardly break 30 bricks a day and could only earn 30 taka on the first day. But now I can break up to 125 bricks and earn 125 taka per day. With my income, I am able to continue to pay for my younger brother Rana’s education. He is a very good student and this year he came second in his class.

For the last 6 months I have been working extra hours to earn more money. Two days ago with this money I bought a new bicycle for my brother, so he can go to his new class and tuition with the bicycle. Before that he used to walk a long distance and he got tired. My brother said when he grows up, he will get a job and he will never let me work here anymore. _Rotna and her mother Rina Akter

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It feels like I’m a king when I travel on the roof of the train. I feel so free and happy with my other friends. During the whole day we travel on the top. In the last six months I have travelled to lots of places. I never knew there were lots of places to go to. My friends make fun of me calling me a frog from a well and laugh. I don’t know what that means but this makes me laugh when they call me Bang(frog ).

After my father’s death my mother left us with our uncle and went to Saudi Arabia to work. My mother sends money for us but they don’t feed us food properly. My sister and I were working like donkeys every day. They beat us without any reason. Every day it was a punishment to be with them. They were not this cruel when my father was alive. That day my aunt was beating my sister and grabbing her hair. I asked my sister, Sanjida to come with me while I was escaping from that Hell but she refused. She is 4 years older than me. I think she is a fool because except for crying she can’t do anything. She was also crying the moment she was giving me her all money: that which she was collecting for herself for a long time. I didn’t want to take it but she forced me and placed it in my pocket. I lost all that money the very first night while I was sleeping on the station platform. I don’t know how much money there was. But I can say, my pocket was full of it. I never cried so much before that day when I found out that I lost my money.

Now I am working as a porter and what money people give me is enough for my living. I am happy;at least I am not in that hell anymore. For the last 2 months I have been sleeping with my street friends in the pile of jute bags and it’s really warm. For the last couple of days, I haven’t gone to ride the top of the train. When the train runs in the cold wind your bare body feels like someone is cutting your skin with a knife.

I miss my sister. Every night while I try to sleep I miss her. Whatever good food I eat sometimes, I miss her. I am worried about her and I feel sorry for her. Maybe because of me she has to work double! Sometimes I think about returning home for her and taking her with me. I wish I could take her out from that Hell one day. – Sakib 8

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